The “Eastern Conference Spurs” is a title that often gets thrown around when people talk about the Atlanta Hawks. The title is a bit like calling Elton John or Paul McCartney a knight, a tad undeserving. That being said, they do always manage to overachieve in the regular season before bowing out in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Hawks were one of four teams to finish at 48-34 last year behind a solid core of Paul Millsap, Jeff Teague, Al Horford, Schröder, and Kyle Korver. They went on to win their first round series against the Celtics in 6 games before getting swept by the Cavs in the second round.
Jeff Teague and Al Horford said goodbye to their mildly successful existence in Atlanta. The big win in the offseason was convincing Dwight Howard to come back home to Atlanta. The Hawks also added a few other pieces in Taurean Prince and Jarrett Jack. Their first round choice in the draft, DeAndre’ Bembry will also come into league with a strong chance of taking the “best hair” category in the imaginary NBA yearbook. If you haven’t had the chance to read about Bembry’s relationship with his brother, who was shot and killed in Charlotte this summer, do yourself a favor and go read it.
You would have to think that Teague’s departure will hurt the Hawks for this season but honestly, Dennis Schröder often looked like the better player in that backcourt last season. They will be fine there. The biggest concern for them is whether Dwight Howard is capable of replacing what Al Horford has meant to this team the last few years. Dwight has always seemed to be a prized possession in free agency but he just can’t seem to duplicate the success that he had in Orlando a few years ago. Anyone that watches Horford knows how much he meant to the team last year. Dwight has some pretty big shoes to fill.
With all of that in mind, the Hawks will likely find themselves in the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff picture again. Atlanta stalwarts Korver and Millsap will provide the steady hand of veteran leadership, Dwight will clean things up around the rim, Sefolosha and Splitter will play meaningful minutes, and Schröder should take a step forward and more than cover Teague’s contributions.
This team will likely be around 48-34 this year but will once again exit early on in the postseason tournament. Classic Atlanta.